It would be safe to say that Manchester United’s result against Liverpool on Sunday was nothing short of a disaster for them.
A Mohamed Salah hat-trick capped off an emphatic display from The Reds, in which they picked apart United from start to finish.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
1) Solskjaer is now, for certain, not the man to lead United forward
Let’s start this off by first of all acknowledging some of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ‘achievements’ at Man United.
Solskjaer returned expectations to Old Trafford after guiding his team to fourth and second in consecutive seasons in the Premier League. And he has built a squad that is probably the most capable since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. And he did this by playing a largely entertaining brand of football. Furthermore, at one point, the feel-good factor was back for Manchester United.
However, these factors do not exclude the glaring shortcomings, and the result against Liverpool was the culmination of it all.
No trophies from his nearly three years in charge, and continued reliance on individual ability ahead of patterns of play were always going to come unstuck one day.
This season, almost everything that could go wrong has. And this United team do not look like one who are capable of challenging for anything in their current form. Something new is needed to energise these players.
As much as individual errors played a part in the defeat to Liverpool, a lot of these came from structural issues and a simple lack of desire. And if a Manchester United manager can’t motivate his team to play Liverpool at home, then it truly should be the end of the road for them.
2) Mohamed Salah is the best player in the world, no question
Liverpool and Egypt forward Salah is playing some terrific stuff at the moment. The goals he scored against Manchester City and Watford were tantamount to those claims.
Salah has been one of the best players in the world in the last few seasons, but this year he appears to be a level even above that.
With yesterday’s hat-trick, Salah broke a few records. He became the first player to score in 10 consecutive games for Liverpool; The first-ever player to score an away hat-trick against Man United in the Premier League era (with the only other one in that time coming from Ronaldo for Real Madrid in the Champions League in 2003); He became the highest African goalscorer in Premier League history; And finally, he became the first Liverpool player to score in five consecutive away games for Liverpool since 1902.
During the International break, everyone seemed to forget that Salah was a football player, with shouts of Karim Benzema or Jorginho going around for the Ballon d’Or, along with the usual suspects such as Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski. But since club football has returned Salah has laid down the gauntlet to anyone that would challenge his claim to be the best in the world right now.
The only player who probably comes close is Lewandowski, but as good as the Poland international is, it’s hard to imagine he’d fare quite as well as Salah is in a more competitive league. In terms of this year’s Ballon d’Or, the Liverpool star gets our pick as the deserving winner.
? The last 2 away players to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford. pic.twitter.com/YNMYjS49Zy
— SPORF (@Sporf) October 24, 2021
3) Shaw and Maguire are shadows of the player we saw at EURO 2020
Whether it was just a good few months for the pair of them, or whether they are just in rotten form, there is no denying that any claims for England duo Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire to be considered world-class are currently dead and buried. And the pair were consistently receiving such lofty praise in EURO 2020.
Shaw and Maguire could probably be held responsible for at least three or four of Liverpool’s goals, with the second goal in particular being one that they should both look upon with shame.
Maguire especially is no longer performing at the levels he set out at the Euros and the months prior to it. In fact, since he has come back from injury he has looked completely lost.
A disaster class against Leicester City was somewhat understandable seeing as this was his first game back after a few weeks out, but the fact that he has now dropped two terrible performances in a row in the Premier League will be very concerning for a United team that will not see Raphael Varane return for a few more weeks.
Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw are unrecognisable from the players who graced Euro 2020 #MUFC
— Sam Pilger (@sampilger) October 24, 2021
4) Liverpool were not even at 80% and this is what they do to teams who can’t defend
The most damning fact about Sunday’s result is probably that Liverpool were not even at their best. Not even close.
The Reds decided to rest Sadio Mane, Fabinho, and Joel Matip for their visit, something that would seem incomprehensible before kick-off, but by the full-time whistle, Jurgen Klopp could have probably justified treating the tie like an early-round Cup game, where Liverpool rest the majority of their players.
Man United were always going to have plenty of issues with Liverpool, but the way in which Liverpool carved The Red Devils open was almost like a hot knife through butter.
There was next to nothing in the way of resistance apart from David de Gea, who himself could not do a whole lot to stop United from leaking five goals.
Liverpool were never truly pressed into being concerned about creating chances. They weren’t even that solid defensively, with United getting themselves a few decent chances throughout the first half, but failing to do anything with them.
Liverpool would have won the game by multiple goals regardless of whether Salah was in the team or not, and the fact that they rested players shows how little concern United gave to their opponent. So much for the Old Trafford fear factor.
Let's not mess about here, this is probably the worst team performance in the history of the Premier League. Results can be misleading – the 1-6 to Man City was 1-3 going into stoppage time, the performance wasn't THAT bad – but this is a humiliation, 10 times worse than that.
— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) October 24, 2021
5) Klopp showed the United board what a top coach with an identity can do
After a few trophyless years under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have since won the three of the biggest prizes in club football that they can win: The Champions League, the Premier League, and the Club World Cup. With the exception of the FA Cup, Liverpool have now won every major trophy available since Klopp took charge, and are looking likely to contend again this year.
Klopp came in with a reputation as a good coach, not necessarily a world-class one, but everyone knew what his identity and style of play was, and they knew that it could be successful.
After all, it had been successful at Borussia Dortmund and had helped them to break Bayern Munich’s monopoly on the Bundesliga. It had also helped get Dortmund to a Champions League final, ultimately losing that to Bayern in 2013.
But the point is that there was an identity that would be set in motion, and if given the appropriate time and tools it would garner results. This is what Solskjaer lacks.
Prior to his appointment at United, Solskjaer’s managerial record was not fantastic. Relegated with Cardiff and managing Molde when he took over as interim boss, no one knew exactly what style Solskjaer wanted to implement, and even to this day it is a bit of a mystery.
Klopp has shown the United board what a clear identity can do, and as such United should be looking for the right manager to come in and deliver on those categories.
United visit Tottenham Hotspur next week, in Saturday’s late kick-off. Spurs are equally struggling, but they sit one point ahead of United and it is imperative for both teams to win to keep their hopes of top four alive.
Meanwhile, Liverpool hosts high-flying Brighton, who could prove to be a tricky customer. But with the form of Salah and the rest of the team, they should be able to overcome them.